It was a transformational moment as the Ark of God was returned to the tabernacle in Jerusalem. To understand the significance of this occasion, here are some things you need to know about the Ark of God.
- The Ark of God, also known as the Ark of the Covenant, was built when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness after they were freed from their slavery in Egypt. It was made of wood and gold and was carried by poles.
- The Ark of God contained three reminders of God’s faithfulness to Israel. There were two tablets that contained the 10 Commandments God gave to Moses. There was a jar that contained manna, the daily sustenance that God provided as they wandered for 40 years. There was the budding rod that belonged to Aaron, Moses’ brother, as a sign that God had chosen Aaron and his descendants to be the priests of Israel.
- The Ark of God was the most important symbol of the Jewish faith and served as the only physical manifestation of God on earth. It was carried every day as Israel wandered in the wilderness and incense was burned at morning and sunset by Aaron and his sons. It was placed in the Tabernacle, a portable and ornate tent.
- The last mention of the Ark of God was in I Samuel 7, 20 years earlier than today’s scripture reading, when Israel’s arch-enemy, the Philistines, had taken it to the house of Abinathedab where it had remained under Saul’s time as king.
The Ark of God was not a present concern for Saul as the goal of his leadership was protecting Israel from its enemies. The Ark of God, however, was a primary focus of David’s leadership as king. Returning the Ark of God to Jerusalem was a foundational part of David’s leadership because it was a reminder of God’s past faithfulness and the promise of God’s future faithfulness
David had a different agenda than Saul. You might even call David’s agenda a transformational agenda as he wanted Israel to realize the glory of God’s presence. Like all faith-filled transformational leaders, David faithfully remembered past realities, faithfully embraced future possibilities, and faithfully led by dancing before the Lord in the present with all his might as the Ark of God was brought to Jerusalem. Dancing with the people he was leading, II Samuel 6:14 tells us that David was dressed like all the other priests and Levites in the procession of the ark as he took off his royal robes. It was a moment of royal humility, an act of devotion, a time to lead by dancing before the Lord.
Today’s scripture reading tells us that David’s dancing before the Lord was a sight that David’s wife, Michal, could not bear to see. The king of Israel, a ruler who was supposed to act with dignity, had removed the trappings of his royalty and was dancing madly with all the house of Israel. II Samuel 6:16 reports it this way:
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him with all her heart.
In her resentment, Michal was unable to dance before the Lord.
The poet Edwin Markham learned about resentment and the power it can possess. When he reached the age of retirement, he discovered that his banker had defrauded him. Markham was ready to retire but was penniless. He was bitter – so bitter that he could no longer write poetry. He was obsessed with resentment for the man who he thought was his friend. One day Markham was sitting at his desk doodling – not writing poetry but only thinking of the man who had wronged him. Markham later testified that he felt God’s voice within him as he sat there. The stillness of the voice said, “Markham, if you do not deal with this thing it is going to ruin you. You cannot afford the price you are paying. You must forgive that man.”
In response, Markham prayed, “Lord, I will, and I do freely forgive.” A miracle occurred as Markham’s resentment began to transform into forgiveness. Markham began to dance before the Lord as the poetry began to flow again and he wrote perhaps his most famous poem:
“He drew a circle that shut me out – Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
But Love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle that took him in.”
Michal stood at her window watching the Ark of God being carried into Jerusalem. It was time to rejoice and join David and all the house of Israel in the joyful dance of transformation that only God can make possible, but Michal stood still while David danced.
Where do you find yourself today? Are you standing at the window or are you dancing with all your might before the Lord?
Dancing Before the Lord, II Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
July 11, 2021